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Death sentence for killer in 1983 jewelry shop murders voided

The California Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence of a convicted San Jose killer, finding that prosecutors withheld evidence that the man may have committed the decades-old murders under threats from a Colombian drug cartel. 

Miguel Angel Bacigalupo was sentenced to death in 1987 for murdering two men in a jewelry shop during a robbery. At the time, a confidential informant told authorities the murders may have been contract killings orchestrated by a drug dealer to settle scores rather than a simple robbery gone wrong.

Bacigalupo had admitted to police that he committed the murders but claimed a Colombian drug cartel had threatened his and his family’s life. A prosecutor had told jurors at trial there was “absolutely no evidence” showing the man was ordered to commit the crimes by others.

The state high court on Monday found that prosecutors did not provide defense attorneys with information from the informant that would have supported Bacigalupo's contention that he committed the murders under duress.

Justices wrote that it was “reasonably probable that [Bacigalupo’s] penalty phase jury would have returned a verdict of life imprisonment without parole had it heard the evidence withheld by the prosecution.” 

Prosecutors still have the option of holding another penalty phase trial to seek the death penalty against Bacigalupo. 

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-- Victoria Kim

 
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